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Bengals OTAs: 4 Things We Learned

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Players getting healthy and emerging stars highlight the biggest takeaways from Bengals OTAs.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With organized team activities wrapped up, it's time to look at the five biggest takeaways from the Bengals and how they looked in spring workouts.

1. Dre Kirkpatrick replacing Terence Newman, but Darqueze Dennard lurking

After a strong start in 2014, many believed Terence Newman could still play at a high level for the Bengals. However, he gave up a handful of big plays down the stretch and was eventually benched against Denver in favor of Dre Kirkpatrick. Newman then sat against Pittsburgh with an illness. He came back for the Wild Card loss to the Colts, where he once again gave up several big plays, and Cincinnati made little-to-no effort to re-sign him this offseason.

They apparently felt confident enough in Kirkpatrick to let Newman walk, and by all indications, were smart to feel that way. Kirk was one of the stars of OTAs and looks to be trying to lock down the vacated left cornerback spot.

However, second-year corner Darqueze Dennard is not going down without a fight. He too feels that starting spot is his, and he had a good showing in OTAs to the point this will be one of the biggest training camp battles to watch heading into the summer. Dennard was 'more explosive' and quicker to react after having a tear to sit and learn the defense. Dennard could be used in the slot behind Leon Hall, but he's showing he could battle Kirkpatrick for a starting boundary spot.

2. Marvin Jones is all the way back

Wide receiver Marvin Jones was a full-go during OTAs after missing all of last year with foot and ankle injuries. Entering the all-important contract year, Jones was one of the most impressive Bengal this spring, despite not having played a down of football in 17 months.

As ESPN's Coley Harvey noted, Jones is not only fully healed from last year's injuries, but looked like he hadn't missed a beat in OTAs.

Receivers coach James Urban is among the most impressed. He told me a couple days ago that this spring was "baptism by fire" as it pertained to Jones. It was all about getting the rust off the wide out by putting him through every scenario he should face this season. Urban was pleased with what he saw, as was Jones. He was quick and crisp in his routes and started sharpening his timing with quarterback Andy Dalton by the end of the minicamp that concluded Thursday.

Health-wise, Jones told me Thursday he has no lingering effects of the foot and ankle injuries that held him out all of last season. He feels perfectly fine and made it through the practices without any issues. I think it's safe to say Jones is back.

Hue Jackson isn't expecting much of a decline from Jones this season. "With Marvin Jones, it's about what he was before he left," Jackson said earlier this year. "He's a 10-touchdown, big-play guy who brings another explosive offensive weapon to our football team. We missed him, obviously."

If Jones can stay healthy through training camp and the preseason, he could be in for a big year when he and the Bengals need it most. Jones has a lucrative contract coming next year if he can just be as good as he was in 2013 (10 scores on 51 catches), but all indications show he could have an even bigger year in 2015.

3. Tyler Eifert also fully healed

It was originally believed Tyler Eifert would be limited for Bengals OTAs after shoulder and elbow injuries limited him to just one quarter of football in 2014. After posting 39 receptions for 445 yards receiving and two touchdowns during his rookie season, Eifert started out the 2014 regular season by dislocating his elbow and later undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum.

During the regular-season opener in Baltimore, Eifert posted three receptions (two leading to first downs) for 37 yards receiving. He was on his way to a big year, and by all indications in OTAs, he is again in 2015. He's now '100% cleared' and had a good showing in OTAs. He'll enter training camp with no issue or lingering questions as to how he's healed from last year's injuries. The only real question will be if he can stay healthy this year and avoid any new injuries.

4. AJ McCarron is a legitimate NFL QB

NO HE'S NOT REPLACING DALTON...But AJ McCarron looks like someone who belongs in the NFL after the way he performed in OTAs.

While you can't put too much stock in pad-less practices, McCarron was impressive in OTAs. Whether it was media, teammates or coaches, everyone had something positive to say about the second-year QB.

Heck, the coaching staff likes him so much they went ahead and cut Terrelle Pryor and could move ahead with just McCarron and Dalton as the two QBs on the 53-man roster.

While McCarron didn't throw a pass last year, he was cleared to practice beginning Nov. 18 after a stint on PUP while rehabbing his shoulder injury. He was then activated to the Bengals' 53-man roster on Dec. 9, which allowed him to keep practicing and developing. That little experience appears to have helped springboard him into a great offseason so far, which now has him looking to lock down the No. 2 QB spot in training camp with only Josh Johnson behind him.